Judge rules in favor of suit’s defendants
Court deems former dispatcher has no case
NASHUA – The several Hudson police officers accused in a lawsuit of “willfully failing to protect” a former HPD dispatcher from domestic violence allegedly committed by her former police-officer husband are either not liable for negligence or are entitled to immunity, according to a judge’s order granting the officers and the town of Hudson their motion for summary judgement.
Janelle Sargent, who filed the suit in September 2014, accused then-police Chief Jason Lavoie, current acting Chief Bill Avery and then-Lt. Charles Dyac of doing little or nothing each time she reported that her then-husband, former Litchfield police Capt. Benjamin Sargent, allegedly assaulted her, according to the suit.
Janelle Sargent said her ex-husband “repeatedly abused her, both physically and emotionally, and threatened her to the point she began to fear for her life … (until) she eventually checked into a psychiatric hospital.”
By ruling in favor of the defendants, Judge Charles Temple essentially agreed with their assertion that Sargent has no case, and that the matter should not go before a jury.
Sargent, who is represented by attorney Charles S. Douglas of Concord, has 10 days in which to file a motion for reconsideration. If she does, and is unsuccessful, she can appeal Temple’s ruling, which she must do within 30 days.
Neither Douglas, nor attorney John Curran, counsel for the officers and the town of Hudson, could be reached for comment Tuesday.
The lawsuit, and subsequently, Temple’s ruling, are rife with descriptions of certain incidents involving a range of allegations Benjamin and Janelle Sargent made against each other, and that Janelle Sargent made against Hudson police.
In 2012, two years before the lawsuit was filed, Benjamin Sargent told Hudson police his then-wife was “drinking heavily” while taking prescription medications, which he said he hid from her to avoid a “possible overdose.”
In 2011, Janelle Sargent accused her then husband of pointing a gun at her while she was in the shower, but when she told a co-worker – a Hudson police officer – he “took no action,” so no police report existed.
In another 2012 incident, according to the suit, Janelle Sargent said the two had an argument that became violent when “Benjamin knocked Janelle to the floor at their home in Hudson and bruised her neck and temple while choking her.”
A day after the the incident, Hudson officer Daniel Conley took pictures of her bruises and reported them to Avery, who was second in command at the department, according to the complaint.
Police took “no action” in response to the report, Janelle Sargent said, which she said was in violation of the police department’s policy on domestic violence.
In July 2012, Avery called Janelle Sargent into his office to warn her not to go out drinking in Hudson anymore, according to the suit. Avery allegedly told her “the chief is pissed, and you might see (disciplinary) paperwork.”
She claims she began “living in fear of a reprimand or a loss of her job, by her so-called protectors,” the suit states.
Janelle Sargent also noted in the suit that starting in July, Benjamin Sargent “started looking at maps of bodies of water in the Hudson area.” When she asked him why, he allegedly told her, “when I kill you, they won’t know where to look for your body,” according to the suit.
Eventually, Hudson selectmen fired Janelle Sargent, according to the minutes of a March 2014 selectmen’s meeting.
In between motions in which they approved a request by Kevin Burns, the town’s road agent, to cash in four weeks of accumulated vacation time, then promoted police officer Joseph Hoebeke to sergeant at $31.48 per hour, selectman Roger Coutu made a motion, which was seconded by selectman Pat Nichols, “to terminate Janelle Sargent’s employment with the town of Hudson effective March 26, 2014.”
The motion carried, 4-0.